Will the real Georgia Southern please stand up?
Are the Eagles the two-completion, four-interception squad that lost 44-0 in week one, or the Matt-Breida-is-God-in-a-blue-jersey-four-touchdowns-16-yards-per-carry team that crushed its opponent 43-17 in week two? Only one way to find out: Week three.
Start Time: 6 p.m. EST, Saturday, Sept. 19.
Location: Paulson Stadium, Statesboro, Georgia.
Records: GSU (1-1, 0-0 Sun Belt), The Citadel (2-0, 1-0 SoCon)
Betting Line: Officially, there's not one due to FCS/FBS matchup. However, this site says Georgia Southern is a 20-point favorite, picking the Eagles by the bizarre final of 25-5. They have prediction formulas and stuff, don't ask me.
The Opponent: What stands out most about The Citadel is that this was a conference game just two years ago. The Bulldogs played the Eagles home and away every year for quite a while, and the military school gave Southern all it could handle each time. Notable upsets include a 23-21 loss in 2012 and an awful defeat on homecoming way back in 2003 (my freshman year, the scars still run deep).
But Georgia Southern usually managed to win back in the SoCon years and, with all due respect to The Citadel, the Sun Belt move was a long-needed upgrade in competition. Now, we're handing them a check for $175,000 to play this game.
The Citadel is a team Southern fans are familiar with in more ways than one. The Bulldogs run the same tried-and-true triple option Georgia Southern is famous for, and they run it well. They're undefeated on the season with a 69-0 win against non-scholarship Davidson and a 28-10 victory over traditional SoCon doormat Western Carolina.
Apparently they're feeling pretty good.
"It's a game where our guys won't be uncomfortable playing in their stadium." -Coach Houston, on Georgia Southern.— CitadelFootball (@CitadelFootball) September 15, 2015
Yea, he might live to regret saying that.
The team does rank first in the FCS with 438 rushing yards per game, 76.5 more than any other team. They're also completing nearly 73 percent of their passes with 21.5 yards per catch. Meanwhile, the Bulldog defense has recorded six interceptions.
The Citadel offense features a unique wrinkle as backup quarterback Cam Jackson is also the starting A-back. As you've already seen, starting QB Dominique Allen has impressed so far and wildcat/halfback passes or whatever they'd be called in this situation are something to look out for. B-back Isiah Smith has three touchdowns under his belt on the young season. Evan McField, Cam Jackson and Vinny Miller also see time in the backfield. The Bulldogs returned all five offensive line starters from 2014.
It all looks good. It was Davidson and Western Carolina.
If you want to sound smart at the tailgate, mention that novelist Pat Conroy attended The Citadel and even starred on the school's basketball team (writers can ball too y'all). Conroy wrote The Prince of Tides, The Lords of Discipline and The Great Santini, and most of his work is set in Charleston, home of The Citadel. If you want to engage in high-brow smack talk, also mention that Conroy's book about his senior year of basketball is titled "My Losing Season."
Georgia Southern Outlook: The big story for the Eagles is the return of starting quarterback Kevin Ellison after a two-game suspension. Backup Favian Upshaw looked much, much better in week two than week one but there is no doubt Ellison will take the game's first snap under center.
While The Citadel is a strong FCS team this should also be a good chance for him to get up to speed ahead of the conference schedule.
Aside from the Ellison story, the whole team will be out to prove the Georgia Southern that faced WMU is the true team, not the one that showed up against WVU. There's an old saying about teams improving from week one to week two, but if that's really the case you'd never know it since, well, if both teams get better it cancels out. I digress.
As my colleague Walt Austin points out, one reason for optimism is West Virginia had months and months to prepare for Southern's unique offense, an advantage no one else on the schedule will have.
The other thing, in week one Upshaw threw four interceptions. Week two he threw four attempts. It will be interesting to see if coach Willie Fritz has given up on trying to throw or will look to air it out again with Ellison.
Then again, it may not matter who plays quarterback if Matt Breida does what he did against WMU. In case you forgot, Breida scored four touchdowns on 11 carries with 176 yards, good for a silly 16 yards per carry. You or I could line up at QB if he keeps that up.
Let's not forget props to the defense, including Antonio Glover who snagged three interceptions last week. The D held Western Michigan's QB to 138 yards less than he picked up against Michigan State's vaunted unit, forced its first sack in five years and gave up 25 rushing yards on 26 attempts.
Prediction: With the conference slate looming this game should allow Georgia Southern fans to enjoy a long tailgate party and a relatively easy victory. Southern wins and covers.